Part of the masochistic badge of honour that comes from competing in strongman is the soreness that is a product of putting everything on the line to do your best during the competition. This past weekend was the Canadian Hercules competition, aka Canada’s Natural Strongest Man 2017 and to say I’m sore is putting it lightly. My body was already sore before I had left the field of battle that day! Each and every event was a physical and mental battle beyond anything I have faced before. to have the opportunity to compete at such a high level against great and humble athletes was amazing and everyone did all they could to show why they deserved to be there.
KSM 2017 just might be my favourite and most memorable competition that I have done so far. Read on to learn what made this competition so special and memorable.
The competition for Kingston's Strongest Man and Strongest Woman 2017 was definitely a fun one and the weather turned out to work in our favour despite having to wait a little bit at the beginning for the rain to blow by and just making it in time before more rain started afterwards. Having all four athletes that are going to the Canada's natural strongest man from my team, as well as a few other talented strongman athletes compete made it for a good turnout and a tight competition throughout the entire day.
Event 1 - Log Press
The first event was the log press, clean and press 230 lb., and as usual it was my Achilles heel. I still get set back by log press and most overhead press events in competition and it is still by far the weakest link in my game. Having focused much more on other competitions throughout the past few months I probably haven't trained much log press since about February. This really was to my detriment today as I could have definitely benefited from at least hitting a few reps on the log but alas I zeroed the event and was off to a really bad start for the competition. One of my only chance to train for this event was three days prior to the competition and it’s likely that the reps I hit during that training session created too much fatigue. I wasn't too worried about the placing in this event for ordering as I expected to be towards the bottom of the pile and the next event that we faced was the tire flip which I normally do quite well at.
Event 2 - Tire Flip
The tire flip as usual went pretty well for me and I was very impressed to see my teammate Drew actually bested me at it on this day. The tire we were using is a brutal 800-pound tire that is all chewed up and has very little to grip on anymore. It really is my least favourite tire that I've ever had to flip. None the less I did quite well at this event was back in the midst of the point spread after the second event. A few of us had cleats on for the tire flip, which was a good move in the wet grass that we faced for the course. I felt really sick after the tire flip though as the I suppose the adrenaline from the competition and the cardio and full-body muscle recruitment required to do a heavy tire flip for a full minute really did me in. My blood pressure had dropped and I felt quite sick after completing it and was having a hard time recovering. This is similar to the feeling that I get after typically a truck pull or other event that requires the recruitment of every fibre in your body. I think it's the full body effort required of these types of events that causes me to use so much muscle energy to complete the event that I end up crashing really hard afterwards, particularly when it comes near the beginning of the competition and adrenaline is still maxed out. My teammates CP suggested that I consume some sugar and it really helped out and after I managed to eat some granola bar and have some more water I was starting to feel better just in time for the next event. Because of my placing was quite good with the the tire flip with only Drew having beat me I was in a much better position going into the next event which was the Farmer's Walk and I had a longer time to recover.
Event 3 - Farmer's Walk
This event was perhaps the one that I was most tentative about coming into the competition, because I normally do well at Farmer's but have been struggling with a sprained finger over the last two months which is really affecting my grip in my left hand. I did really poorly with the exact same 275 lb. implements and event at the Clydsdale Highland Games competition about a month ago but my hand has started to make more of a recovery and I also decided to tape my fingers together for extra support on this competition day. Being second last to go on the farmers walk definitely helped as I was able to see just how far I had to go to without putting any extra strain on my finger. My strategy was to run as fast as possible before my grip gave out and so I wasn't wasting any time on doing the farmers today. Secondary to going as far as possible, I was trying to at least get 100 ft with the farmer's walk today. I managed to make the turn at 100 ft and keep going a few more steps and actually ended up winning the event by 5 inches against my teammate CP which was really exciting.
Event 4 - Car Squat
The second to last event at the competition was the car squat which I was particularly nervous about because I'm not a good squatter and I figured that this would be a much greater struggle than doing a car deadlift. I was really hoping to not zero this event as that would definitely affect my points and placing and leave me very little room for making up a difference with the final event which was the atlas stones. I didn't know what to expect because I thought I would possibly have one of the worst numbers for this event. I got to watch everybody else go ahead of me which certainly had its advantage today as I was able to see how doable of an event it actually was. The first competitor up John, actually stunned the crowd into silence as he blasted 27 reps in one minute. The next up in the event was Zack who I knew was going to hit a huge number because he is a very good squatter and he was particularly excited about completing this event and testing his strength. We watched as Zack dominated the event with 42 reps in 60 seconds which was absolutely ridiculous. I didn't think that I would be able to beat that number in the time limit as I knew my reps would have to be really well under control after watching the rest of the athletes go and having some of their reps not count due to not being fully locked out either in their knees or hips. I tried to set a good pace though because I wanted to possibly beat the 27 reps which was the second place number and would give me a definite boost in the standings at this point. I set my pace and also had cleats on which really helped with doing the car squat in the grass as I was able to get my feet positioned far in front of the bar and minimize the actual squatting movement. I tried to visualize it more as just like standing up with a yoke which I'm much better at than squatting. My pace was on point for a good number but I really lost count of how many reps I had done around 20 and so I just stopped trying to count and continued with my pace for as long as possible until the time limit ran out. I was really happy with hitting 34 reps which was good for second place and was much better than I had expected things to go on the car squat. I didn't need to hit that number to get second place, but I had lost count and didn't want to waste time checking the count in case I wasn't past 27 yet.
Event 5 - Atlas Stones
The final event was the atlas stones and one of the coolest parts about working my way back up the standings from zeroing the first event as well as for my other teammates was that Zack, CP and I were all tied for second with 16 points and Drew was in first place with 18 points. The event and competition was still in anybody's hands to win. I was confident going into the final atlas stones event, but everybody was hungry to get all four stones loaded onto the barrels and I knew that there'd be very little room for error if I wanted to win and at least still place in the top three. Being towards the end of the line up once again had its advantage as I got to go see everybody go but the way I looked at this event was that I my main goal was to try to beat my PR from the Clydsdale Highland Games competition where I hit just over 17 seconds in this loading event. I wasn't sure at this point what the final placings would be as Drew did quite well but was in third place for the event when it was my time to go. The barrels for this event were quite low so it really was more or less just a lap of the stone to get it up to height to load onto the platform with very little extension required for me. The first three stones ranging from 240 lb. to 300 lb. went up cleanly and the final 330 lb. stone went up really quite easily as well, but I had a slight stumble on picking it up, and I was able to beat my previous time with 16.75 seconds. This was a winning time for the event and also ended up tying me for first with Drew overall. I was really excited about this as Drew has competed in Kingston's Strongest Man several times in the past and he's tied for first before, but always lost the count back. So Drew got the win on the count back this day on a competition he’d really been looking forward to winning. It only made sense that Drew would win as I had a zero in an event and so it's fair to say he was the better, more well-rounded athlete in the competition and I still have my improvements to make with pressing strength. I am super happy with how close things went in the end of the competition and it only adds fuel to the fire to make me want to get better and compete at KSM again next year.
Just as a final note about training for strongman in general and this competition in particular - it truly is a team sport when you have a great group of teammates that you get to compete together with. All of us shared our equipment and supplies to help each other out where needed in the competition and this made the difference by allowing us to all perform at our very best and without any injuries. Strongman is a very small community and it's also a community that should be embraced for the camaraderie and teamwork as there's really nothing to gain from the individual effort in the long run other than some bumps and bruises and maybe a few bucks if you’re one of the very best. Have fun, make friends, compete hard, and you feel much more fulfilled and enjoy yourself.
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